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Voices of Rutgers Cooperative Extension History

Anne Sheelen Gerwig

Briefly describe your work in Cooperative Extension.
I was hired as a home economist in Union County with responsibility for the adult food and nutrition program. In 1969 federal funds were received to implement a program called the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). The objective was to improve the nutritional quality and adequacy of the diets of limited resource families. I conducted this program in two cities in Union County and one in Ocean County by hiring and training paraprofessionals from the community who worked directly with the families. I was promoted to Nutrition Education Program Leader in 1970 to provide statewide leadership for this program which included 10 county faculty and 150 paraprofessionals. As Assistant & Associate Director I provided overall administrative support to the Director of Extension.

How did your work impact the lives of the clientele you worked with?

In EFNEP, the paraprofessionals gained extensive food and nutrition knowledge as well as communication skills. The community participants showed evidence that they improved food selection practices, were more aware of how to handle food so to keep it safe, and periodic dietary recalls indicated they were eating more balanced diets.

What are you most proud of during your Extension career?
I was instrumental in obtaining complete university personnel benefits, including tuition remission, for the paraprofessionals employed by Cooperative Extension at that time. There were several paraprofessionals who did attend college and take advantage of the tuition remission.

I was selected by the Federal Extension Service to participate in a three person team to develop training materials which were used throughout the country because of the educational approaches and materials developed and used in NJ in administrating EFNEP.

What have been your most memorable experiences in Cooperative Extension?
For a number of years we would “showcase” the Nutrition Education Program to the University Administration. We called this RCA Day (Rutgers Community Assistant was the job title of the paraprofessionals.) The program was held on College Avenue in the University Commons. Each county program had a display of their work. The paraprofessionals presided over all phases of the program. A number of times the Award Winning 4H Drill Team from Newark would enter with quite a flourish! University Administration, including the President, was quite impressed which resulted in their strong support for the program.